Bassam Al Kantar *
The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances will hold its 116th session in Geneva from 10 to 14 September 2018 to examine 840 cases from 46 countries including Lebanon.
The Working Group’s session will coincide with the first week of the Human Rights Council’s 39th session, during which the Working Group will present on 12th September its annual report to the Council as well as the reports on the Working Group’s visit to the Gambia and the follow-up reports on the recommendations made by the Working Group upon past visits to the Western Balkans.
The UN expert group requested to visit Lebanon on 27 November 2015 the last reminder was sent on 1 June 2018, but the Lebanese government didn’t respond yet. The report said the Working Group transmitted 14 urgent appeals concerning persons who had been arrested, detained, abducted or otherwise deprived of their liberty or who had been forcibly disappeared or were at risk of disappearance in many countries including a case in Lebanon.
In 2015, Lebanon has extended a standing invitation to thematic Special Procedures. A standing invitation is an open invitation extended by a Government to all thematic special procedures. By extending a standing invitation States announce that they will always accept requests to visit from all special procedures.
In March 2011, upon recommendations accepted during the November 2010 Universal Periodic Review, the Lebanese government extended a standing invitation to all United Nations Special Procedures – independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective – amongst which the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers. By doing so, the Government committed to always accept requests for country visits by UN experts.
Unfortunately, the Lebanese government didn’t uphold this commitment and refused the request for visit submitted by the UN Special Rapporteur Mónica Pinto on 18 November 2015 and facilitate her visit in 2016. Such a visit would allow for an objective assessment of the functioning of the justice system and provide useful recommendations to pave the way forward.
On 10 September, the Working Group will hold an expert consultation on “standards and public policies for an effective investigation of enforced disappearances”, in order to inform its next thematic report to the Council.
The Group – composed of five independent human rights experts – will also meet relatives of those who have disappeared, State authorities from different countries, civil society representatives and other stakeholders to exchange information on individual cases and on the persistent trend of the phenomenon of enforced disappearances.
The Working Group will, in addition, discuss internal matters and future activities, including its planned visits. The experts will also examine allegations received regarding obstacles encountered in the implementation of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. The Working Group’s meetings are held in private.
* Member of Lebanon’s National Human Rights Commision (NHRC)
The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five independent experts from all regions of the world. The Chair-Rapporteur is Mr. Bernard Duhaime (Canada) and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Republic of Korea); other members are Ms. Houria Es-Slami (Morocco); Mr. Luciano Hazan (Argentina) and Mr. Henrikas Mickevicius (Lithuania).
The Working Group was established by the then UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives. It endeavours to establish a channel of communication between the families and the Governments concerned, to ensure that individual cases are investigated, with the objective of clarifying the whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the protection of the law. It also provides assistance in the implementation by States of the UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance .
The Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.